There is a general consensus among Pirates fans that you have to continuously trade prospects and purchase expensive big time players in order to make the playoffs consistently. This is simply false. Yes this a strategy that has long worked for teams like the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers but those teams have big pockets and thus can afford players like Zach Greinke, CC Sabathia and Matt Kemp.
The Pirates’ own crop of stars will soon out-price themselves and move on to play elsewhere. That is the life of a small market team. Look at the Oakland Athletics and their formula for continued success, certainly you all have heard of moneyball. They are always rebuilding for the future while continuing to win. Whether it be Barry Zito, Nick Swish or Jason Giambi, all have blossomed in Oakland and departed for more money elsewhere. Sure the Pirates could trade away a player such as Josh Bell, Austin Meadows, Nick Kingham or Tyler Glasnow and probably add multiple big league stars to their 25 man roster.
Certainly with those four prospects departing they could bring in Ian Kennedy, David Price and Anthony Rizzo. That will not happen. To see Pirates trade possibilities, read the guide to the Pirates trade deadline. Huntington can only work within the financial constraints that he is afforded by ownership, and for the 2014 season, they have the fifth lowest payroll at 78 million. That total is a long ways away from the 239 million that the visiting LA Dodgers are spending on their roster this year. So how is it that in today’s game that is ruled by economic inequality do small market teams compete?
They do not overpay for talent that they can get elsewhere and they draft well, really well. Now the Pirates payroll is increasing and it will continue to increase towards the league average. However, current starters will price themselves out of contention for the Pirates. It is commonly accepted that Pedro Alvarez will be playing elsewhere in 2017. And who knows whether the Pirates will cough up the 3 years/40 million that Russell Martin will get on the open market as an elite catcher. The dark truth is players such as Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco could all play for other teams at the end of their current contracts, they will all be due for a pay raise.
Who knows, all of those players could afford the Pirates a significant hometown discount, but it remains to be seen if ownership is willing to cough up such a large sum of money on one player. So the question remains, how can the Pirates, a small market club, consistently compete among the high spenders (Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees)? They continuously draft well and develop young talent to continuously rise through the system and replace stars who depart.
As stated by Huntington, Josh Bell is an athlete, one who can play many positions. He could be moved to first base to allow him to play in the big leagues if the outfield of McCutchen, Polanco and Starling Marte remains intact. At 19, Meadows most likely has 2-4 years of minor league maturation before he reaches the majors. It is not entirely unreasonable to think that in four years the Pirates outfield could look different than it does now.
Until the Pirates payroll is significantly increased to be competitive with the league average, Huntington cannot trade the only resource that he has, prospets. I still affirm that trading Josh Bell and a pitching prospect for Anthony Rizzo is in the best interest of the team for this season and the future. He is under contract at a fairly cheap rate through 2021, and has progressed mightily each season. Rizzo currently leads the National League in home runs with 23.
The Pirates could make a trade for a player like David Price and receive immediate help in the playoff push. They now find themselves a game out of first place in the NL Central, but the resources that would be traded in order to acquire Price would mortgage the future of the team. Huntington is content with what he has and will add a lesser-known player while coughing up little in terms of prospects.